Manning, M., & Granstrom, B. (2011). Charles Dickens: scenes from an extraordinary life. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. ISBN: 9781847801876
Annotation: Charles Dickens wrote many influential pieces of English Literature, but his own life is just as extraordinary as some of his characters.
Reaction: I really enjoyed the way the authors used Dickens’ own words (letters, conversations and writings) to highlight some of the major events in his life. This gives readers a sense of his style and also makes his writings seem more accessible to a modern reader; the excerpts used were interesting and engaging enough to make someone want to seek out his works. Additionally, the authors include comic strips of some of his especially famous books, summarizing the plot and introducing the characters, with the encouragement for readers to go read the book to find out the end of the story.
I was really surprised at how many adventures Dickens had throughout his life. I was sort of under the impression that he remained a penniless, unknown his entire life, like so many other authors whose genius wasn’t appreciated until after death, but apparently not!
I enjoyed the art, which gives the reader a glimpse into what life was like in England during the mid 1800’s. The drawings are fairly cartoony and the characters surrounding Dickens are often comical. I particularly enjoyed the illustration of Dickens’s trek up to Mt. Vesuvius in Italy. The look on his face as he scampers down the mountain is delightful; he seems so happy to be on fire! The art stays fairly bright and fits in with the lighthearted tone of the book, especially as Dickens gets older and becomes famous.
I would use this book primarily as part of a 5th or 6th grader English unit, though it also has ties to history, and I know that I would have enjoyed this book as a freshman in high school when teachers began assigning Dickens novels.
Media Used: Pencil and watercolor.